Opinion submission: It's time to lock up "locker room talk"

By Kathryn Walters | April 18, 2018 11:14am
UP alum Kathryn Walters. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Walters.

As a UP alum and young woman, I was extremely dismayed to hear of the events that took place at the athletic department's Wally Awards on April 15. Mr. Sundaram's disgusting attempts at humor were far from comical. His sexist words about women have absolutely no place at UP, and in fact, were scarily reminiscent of our current president's similar language on a secret Access Hollywood tape.

What especially concerns me is that this situation was even allowed to happen at all. Did the group in charge of organizing the event properly vet Mr. Sundaram? Were talking points approved ahead of the event? Is there a procedure for discreetly yet decisively intervening if a speaker goes off the rails? Some things to certainly consider for not only student events, but University events too.

What the bigger issue is, of course, is that despite recent progress made in our society with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, that some people would find rude and inappropriate comments about women to be funny. As a woman, I can unequivocally say that this kind of language is not funny. Full stop. The only silver lining from this situation is that it has ignited a dialogue on campus (and beyond) that hopefully will lead to a better and safer environment where this kind of "locker room talk" will not be tolerated.

How can this be accomplished? By holding one another accountable, for starters, but there also needs to be commitment to this mission from the upper levels of University administration. From the first moment a freshman Pilot steps on campus, it should be abundantly clear from all levels of the University that derogatory language and attitudes are not welcome on The Bluff. Perhaps this could be accomplished through a freshman workshop on what constitutes "locker room talk" and how to respectfully hold each other to higher standards. 

Despite this disappointment, I still love UP and am proud to be a Pilot. At its heart, I still believe UP is a caring community, but there is real need for improvement. It's my sincere hope that as UP moves forward from this incident, that it will take steps to proactively address harmful language and attitudes, and become a shining, safe beacon for all.

Kathryn Walters ‘14 can be reached at kwalters0206@gmail.com